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Challenged to Change

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Change is Possible, Even in the Worst of Circumstances

Jesus Detroyed the Powers & Principalities

Colossians 2:15

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Every one of us almost every day of this past week have realized that this just is not a perfect world that we’re living in and it’s just not perfect people that live in it. This dear book of God says that it’s a fallen world and that it’s a fallen people that live in it. All of us here have devised ways to deal with these fallen imperfect people. We’ve all devised ways to get on in this fallen imperfect world. If somebody talks about you behind your back, you talk about them behind their back. If somebody let’s you down, you just never trust them again completely. If somebody’s out to get you, you either get them or you keep clear of them. If you want to survive, you look after yourself first. Then after you’ve taken care of that, you’re as generous as you can be to other people.

Most of us have been brought up with these techniques and you could add others that you use day by day. In the first century, there were two mighty forces that used those techniques. The Roman army dominated people by military might and physical strength and the Jewish religion made people bend to their will by persuasion and manipulation. Against those two mighty fallen forces of this world, there came a gentle, loving, winsome human being who didn’t use any of those techniques. He in fact behaved the opposite to all of those things. He actually trusted even those who had just let Him down. He actually exposed Himself more and more openly to those who were out to get Him.

So when He came against these two mighty forces, they smashed Him, they smashed Him on a Cross and just destroyed Him. And as He died, He died in absolute faith that His father, the Creator of the world would reverse what these forces had done to Him. And lo and behold, a few days after His death, that’s exactly what happened. He came alive again. All that they had done to Him by exercising their force was reversed in a moment.

But not only that, He then released that power that had reversed everything. He released that power to His followers and they started to reverse these things too. And so where someone had brought sickness to another person through their hostility, causing them ulcers and anxiety, these men, by the power of this force that Jesus had released, they healed that ulcer. They reversed the effects of that evil and they continued to do it through the first century. Even when they came against death, they were able to reverse that also.

They did it in the power of Jesus’ name. Jesus explained to them: “This is because all authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. I have that authority because when I died, I destroyed death, but I also destroyed everything that brings death. I destroyed the elemental spirits of the universe that grind in resentment against you in other people’s hearts. I destroyed the anger and hostility of other people that normally bring about your destruction. I destroyed the elemental spirit that actually causes that.”

He explained to them, “Because of that, those powers actually don’t exist. The only power that the anger of another person has over you, or criticism has over you or bearing false witness has against you — the only power it has is through you believing it has power. But I have destroyed that power. That power no longer affects you if you realize that I have negated and neutralized it.” So loved

ones, that’s actually what has happened down through the 20 centuries of our era.

Wherever men have believed that, God has in fact manifested His power over those things. You know if you really want to behave like Jesus and you want to accept that you have no right to your own way, and you have no right to other people looking up to you, and you have no right to other people’s respect, and you are willing to be crucified with Christ, if that’s all you do, they’ll smother you. They’ll destroy you. They’ll smash you. They’ll do that unless you begin to see that not only were you crucified with Christ, but the powers in this world that normally bring about destruction in your life, they were destroyed also. And you can exercise your faith upon that. Of course, it works in all kinds of situations.

You have people in your place of work that are presumably out to get you. If it’s a normal place of work they’re out to get you and you just can’t keep track of them. The dear souls, they always find somebody that they can whisper something to. You can’t be with them all the time. Or there is some boss who utterly misunderstands your attitude to your job and he has that misunderstanding in his heart and you can’t change it. Or there’s somebody in your home, a mom or a dad that is just convinced that you’re a certain kind of person. When you say a certain thing, they interpret it a certain way and there’s no way in which you can get inside their mind and change it.

God took those forces, those powers inside them, and He destroyed them in His Son Jesus. That’s what it means when it says in Colossians, “Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers.” It’s the principalities and powers that are behind your mom’s criticism about you, that are behind your colleague’s suspicion of you, that are behind your boss’s misconception of you. It’s those elemental spirits of the universe that Christ destroyed in His death on Calvary. The moment you believe that, those things fade away because they don’t exist any longer. They only operate because we don’t realize what a change God brought into the world at Calvary. He unraveled all these things.

He said, “Look, all you need to do is to believe this and act accordingly.” I’ll give you two of the verses that He mentioned. One is in Matthew 18:18, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The apostles actually did that. They would come to a man who was bound by an evil spirit and they would loose him in the name of Jesus. Or they would come to someone who was bound by a spirit of insanity and they would loose it in the name of Jesus. Or, in the instance we read last Sunday, Paul was bound by chains and this power had actually the ability to break material things like chains. Now loved ones that is so.

There are situations where money is bound up, that is needed in God’s work. It is possible to loose it in Jesus’ name. Indeed that’s the way He wants money for His work, not through constant financial appeals but through His children taking authority in His name. That’s what He wants you to do when you get into hideous situations financially. There is a real power that is possible to release in Jesus’ name. And so, that’s one of the verses. Another verse is in Mark 11:23-24.

Mark 11:23-24, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says, will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” For most of us the bit that we don’t do is believe that you have received it. We either get deceived by wanting to make sure that we’re not involved in the power of positive thinking (and so we decide, “Well, we don’t want to believe we have received it,”) or, we simply haven’t the persistence to carry on believing because we didn’t receive it the next day.

So many of us pray but the prayers are pretty terrible. They’re little pleading prayers “but if it’s your will and if you could possibly find your way to do this….if there is no other way I can get through this situation, but you’re my last hope Lord, will You help me?” All it does is shame the Father and it doesn’t produce the condition that He asked for. He asked for faith and it’s the same when we come into situations at work and at home, we tentatively go around the thing and pray, “If it’s Your will Lord, will You do this?”

But we don’t actually speak in faith to the situation. Indeed we feel, “Oh no, I can’t say it out loud.” But actually the Bible often says, “You should say it. You should speak to this mountain be removed and cast into the sea”, and repeatedly we tend to say, “Oh no, it’s up to God to do that, I couldn’t command this money situation to be changed, I couldn’t command this spirit to leave this situation, I couldn’t. It must be God that does that.” And yet Jesus says, “Look, I have done everything, I’ve done it all. I have actually set the generators up so that the electricity is coming right through to that switch. You have to throw the switch. I am not throwing the switch. I have left this earth now and I dwell in you, in my Spirit. You have to speak, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea.’ You have to go out on the limb. I’ve gone out on enough limbs. You have to go out on the limb. You have to act accordingly.” Could I give an example?

If you have prayed for a certain situation to be corrected in the office, then you don’t go to the office next day in fear and timidity. You go in faith, absolutely confident that the person’s heart is changed. That’s what faith is. God is able to look into your heart and see if there’s faith there. What if you say to me, “I’ve tried it. And it doesn’t work?”

Pastor reading from a book: “Once in Korea, a lady by the name of Yuan Huang Tung, had a tremendous youth meeting on Samgak Mountain. She had a great ministry. When she stood up and people came forward, they would fall down slain under the power of the Holy Spirit. Many young people would flock to her meetings and when she held the campaign on Samgak Mountain, thousands of young people came to join in.

“During the week of the youth campaign, it rained heavily and the rivers overflowed. A group of young people wanted to go to town on the opposite side of the river where the meetings were being held but when they came to the bank of the river, it was flooded. There was not a bridge or a boat to be seen and most of them became discouraged. But three girls got together and said, “Why can’t we just wade through the water? Peter walked in the water and Peter’s God is our God. Peter’s Jesus is our Jesus. And Peter’s faith is our faith. Peter believed and we should do all the more. We are going to go over this river.”

The river was completely flooded but these three girls knelt down and held hands together, quoting the scriptures containing the story of Peter walking in the water and they claimed they could believe in the same way. Then, in the sight of the rest of the group, they shouted and began to wade through the water. Immediately, they were swept away by an angry flood, and after three days, their dead bodies were found in the open sea.

This incident caused repercussions throughout Korea. Non-Christian newspapers carried the story making headlines of it. ‘Their God could not save them’, ‘Why did God not answer their prayer of faith?’ So unbelievers had a real hey day as a result of this occurrence.

I would imagine you’ve been in the same spot. We have heard this before, if you believe and have

faith, God is able to change sickness and able to change financial situations and able to change material circumstances in the light of your prayer. It hasn’t happened and so you keep on hearing this stuff and you automatically dilute it a little and say, “Well, it’s just inspirational stuff.” Now why didn’t they experience what Peter experienced and why have you not experienced at times what you felt the Bible promised?

Loved ones, would you look at the incidence in Peter’s life, it’s Matthew 14:28, And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” Peter didn’t say Moses had an amazing experience of power over the water of the Red Sea. So, I can have this power too on this lake. He didn’t take something that had happened in somebody else’s life and logically infer from it that that should happen now in his life. He said, “Lord, if you want me to walk on the water, will you speak to me and bid me to come?”

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” But the Greek word for word in that verse is not “logos”. “Logos” is the written word. “Logos” would be, Peter saying, “Now Moses had an experience of walking through the Red Sea”, and so that (the logos) will apply to me. That would be “logos, the written word”. Some people have said — and you’ll excuse me for its Americanism, — “Grab it, blab it”.

You grab the verse out of the Bible and you blab it or you speak it and so God ought to come through. That’s logos. The Greek word in Romans 10:17 is “rhema” and it means the personal word that God speaks to you in the quietness of your own heart. And you know, He said it to you. And faith comes by hearing the spoken word, which God has given you personally, not the written word, which was spoken to somebody else and has not yet been made real in your heart. And that’s what was wrong with the girls in Korea.

They didn’t get before God and say, “Lord, what do you want in this situation with this river in front of us. We want to go across to the town.” They didn’t. They didn’t ask God about it at all. They just said, “Now Peter did this, so we must be able to do it.” Loved ones, the first step in coming into a place of faith for your own situation is to get before God and find out what He is saying to you, what “rhema” is He saying to you. We would spell that in English: R-H-E-M-A.

“Lord, what are you saying to me in this situation?” So the first step if you’re in a situation that requires changing, is to go before God and come into a place of real neutrality. Whether it’s who to marry or whether it’s the job to get or whether it’s a predicament that you’re in financially or whether it’s a difficulty that you’re in with your family or in a personal relationship, the first step is to come before God and say, “Lord, I want to come into a place of real neutrality about this. I want to go into neutral gear here. I don’t want to be moving, wanting to go forward or wanting to go back. I don’t want to want it or not want it. I want, Lord, to be in a place of perfect peace before you and in quietness. I want to worship you and love you even if I don’t ever get a wife, even that I don’t ever get any money, even if I am poverty stricken, even if I die of this sickness, even if this family breaks up completely. Lord even if I never get a job. Lord I want to be in a place where I want you and love you and am content with that. I ask you by Your Holy Spirit to show me where I am not in that position of real neutrality.”

Loved ones, that’s the first step. Come into a place of real neutrality. Of course, I think many of you can probably see where we’ve gone astray in the past. We’ve grabbed something in desperation. We

get into a spot where we have no way out unless God comes and so we desperately want something to happen. We’re not in a position to listen to what He wants at all and of course we are absolutely so sure, aren’t we?

We’re so sure that what He wants above all is physical health, and often He doesn’t. Why did Jesus die in pain if God’s greatest for us is physical health? He does want physical health for us, but that isn’t the best that He has to give us. Often we think, “God wants me to be rich,” but often that’s the worst thing for us. Often we think, “Oh, God wants me to be free from this tension.” Well sometimes He does but sometimes He has other things to work through it. But the first step is to come into a place of real neutrality.

The second step is to find out what desire is in your heart. Remember the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” So you have come into place of neutrality where you are satisfied with God and Him only. Maybe that takes hours, maybe it takes days, maybe it takes weeks to come into that. But you come into a real place of neutrality where you want God’s will above everything else. And then you notice, what is the desire in your heart.

And if you say to me, “Oh well, often there is Satan’s desires, and selfish desires.” Yes, but if you wait on the Lord, if you wait before God, the desire that is His will be the one that persists. The others will fade away. And it’s essential to come into that place where you realize what is the one single desire that He is allowing to come forth in you. And of course He will guide you by your desires. But you see, it’s your desires when you’re in a right relationship with Him, where you want His will above everything else.

Then, as you wait before Him, Satan’s desires, your own selfish desires, they fade away and there comes a persistent desire that you begin to sense is God’s Spirit’s will for you. Then when you come into that place, God expects you to look and see, is this in line with scripture? Is this in line with scripture? If you sense that God wants you to marry this girl who isn’t a child of His, well, it’s so simple. The Bible says, “Be ye not unequally yoked.” All right, that can’t be God’s desire.

If you find yourself praying for something that the Bible does not approve of, or that is not in line with God’s word, then you know that that isn’t of God. So the third step is to screen this desire through scripture. Search the Bible and make sure this is in line with what God wants. Then the fourth step is what Elijah saw. You remember he prayed for rain. He prayed and prayed for rain. It hadn’t rained for days. Then he looked up and he saw a cloud no larger than a man’s hand. Look for beckoning circumstances. Look and see, are there beckoning circumstances? Is God indicating through the things that are happening that this is in line with the way His providence is beginning to open things out for you?

If you say to me, “Will there always be beckoning circumstances?” And especially if you say to me, “Will all circumstances agree?” No, often you’ll move against a mass of circumstances. But to you in your spirit of trust and neutrality before God and your spirit of wanting what He wants and your desire to have the thing in line with scripture, often there will be a circumstance that’ll be a little confirmation from God. “Yes, take a little step.” And as you take a little step, you watch for another beckoning circumstance and you take another little step. And then the last step is to wait for God’s timing.

Often we come up to that place where we know what God wants and we’re sure of it but the Father has His timing different from ours. He wants just to hold steady and hold steady for a day or a couple

of weeks or a month or sometimes even a year, and to rest in Him. So the last step is to wait for God’s timing. Once you’ve got that, you go forward in absolute, complete faith that the thing is already done. Now it’s interesting, unless you come to that place where you go forward in absolute, complete faith that it’s done, actually it won’t be done. Do you understand that?

I think a lot of us go through all those steps and think, “We can sit comfortably in our little cave and wait for God to do the miracle without us going out on our limb.” No. Sooner or later you have to take the action and the step, because action is faith. It is not thinking. If we will move that way, God has all the power of Calvary to release into your life and into your circumstances. And He wants to release it. Brothers and sisters, if you’re not exercising faith in that way for your circumstances and your material situations, or your physical health or other people’s lives, you’re a defenseless little lamb. You’ll be destroyed. Because if you once give up the world’s method of resentment, criticism, antagonism and hostility and you begin to walk the way Jesus walked with the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, and goodness, you will be destroyed. Because the world doesn’t recognize that and it’ll mow you down. The only way that you can begin to deal with the world then, is by faith in this miraculous power of Calvary that is able to neutralize and destroy and reverse situations through your faith.

Any questions? It’s not that I can answer every question, but I can clarify at least what the Bible is saying to us.

Q: How do you take these ideas from your mind and get into the actual process where you get them going?

A: Brother, I think there is no easy way into this. You have to take a certain situation and begin to get before God on it and go through these little steps and HOLD to it. The steps aren’t important; they’re just the ways that we have of coming into a place of faith. But go through those and hold to it. It’s essential to take some real situation and hold to it.

Brother, I think one of the things that spoil us, is that we never take it and apply it to a definite situation, we don’t. It’s great that you asked the question because I was caught on that thing too. It was all up here in my mind and I prayed about so many things. You don’t know which are answered and which aren’t answered and so your life just becomes a vague conglomeration of half answered or unanswered prayers and you never actually deal with anything. And that’s one of the values I saw of what God has done for us in Jesus.

Tell me: is your life not full of unsettled things? I mean I would be surprised if it isn’t. I would say you’d be very different from the majority of us here if your life is not at this moment filled with all kinds of things that aren’t settled. All kinds of situations that aren’t satisfactory to you at all and that you don’t think are in God’s will at all. The only way, brother, is to take one of those and go at it, if necessary for the next two years. One of the things that has done us a great deal of harm in our instant society is, we will not stay with the thing as long as God wants us to so that He’s able to bring about a change.

I think brother, you have to take a certain situation and you have to walk in it this way, however long it takes. That’s the story with all the greats: Rees Howells, C.T. Studd, Hudson Taylor— they all spent a lot of time on the very first instance. It was often a drawn out affair in the first instance and then they began to walk that way, naturally.

Q: How do you work that process in what appears to be an emergency situation?

A: I suppose that’s the killer that we all get involved in. We don’t operate this way normally, so now emergency situations press in and in and in upon us. I think of Susan, who was shot through with that cancer in Switzerland and the ribs breaking because of the metastasis and you can’t suddenly stir up and create faith. I think you have to tackle it, however difficult it is, you have to tackle it in the same way, “Lord, I have to come into a place where You mean everything to me.” Love, I know if it’s a person dying or if it’s a divorce about to occur, I realize what you’re saying. But I think the situation is the same.

We have to get our eyes off the emergency situation and we have to get into a right relationship with God saying, “God, You are God even if this is my mother dying, even if this is my loved one leaving me in my marriage, even if this is us losing the house. Lord, You are God. I won’t get anywhere if my life is determined by this pressure situation. I have to get into a position with you where you matter and your will matters all in all.”

I know it’s terrible, I know it’s like a recipe for disaster. But it seems we can’t go before God in the chaos and the noise of the thunder and lightening. Remember, God was not in the earthquake, God was not in the wind, God was not in the fire, God was in the sound of gentle stillness – the still small voice. It seems to me, sister, we have to do that. We have to back off the hideous situation. I think one can say, “Lord, You know this, I ask You to hold this in suspense as You are able, while I get before You and get into a right relationship here. Because Father, I am overwhelmed by this.” And being overwhelmed by it, we’re not in shape at all to receive what He wants. That’s a hard answer sister, but I do think it’s the authentic one.

Q: How can one know the perfect will of God for one’s life everyday?

A.: Brother, I only know one way. Take the instance that most of us have had who are married. We were embarrassed when we came down after the honeymoon night and the waitress said, “Do you want cream?” And you said, “No, she doesn’t want cream.” But, she actually does want cream!

So, at that early stage you don’t know whether she likes cream. Or she doesn’t know whether you like tea. There are a lots of things that you don’t know about each other but as you move on together and as you walk close to each other through the weeks and the days and the years, you begin to get to know what the other person wants and indeed it comes to a point where somebody says, “Would your wife like to go to this place or would she like that?” And you know exactly what she’d like. And you get better and better at knowing what each other’s will is.

Brother, I don’t think there’s any substitute for that, for being close to God day by day by day until more and more you get to sense what way His mind works and what His mind is in particular for you. He is not reluctant to tell us. That’s why He put us on earth. He put you on earth, me on earth, to do a certain thing for Him and He wants us to know that.

Our killer is, we won’t stay still long enough to even listen to Him. We read all kinds of books. We talk to each other. We consult everybody. But we will not wait upon God in prayer. It seems to me there’s a quiet waiting before God that enables us to know that.

Well, maybe I should close, but will you start? Even if you’re sitting there and saying, “Brother that’s far beyond me” — START. Try it with something. The Father is not a wild tyrant. He is not

going to crumple you because you fail. He is going to lift you up and help you. But He wants you to start exercising faith, loved ones. Believe Him. Let’s pray.

Dear Father, we thank You for Jesus and we thank You Lord that You didn’t leave us defenseless in this world. You didn’t simply take away the carnal weapons of our warfare and give us nothing in its place. Lord, we thank you that you have taken away this old selfishness. You have taken away the hostility and the criticism and the anger. And Lord You’ve given us in its place this miraculous power of Jesus’ resurrected life to negate and neutralize, to leave inoperative, to frustrate the very forces of this society that would destroy us. So Lord, we can live in the way that Jesus did after these forces had done their worst. He simply turned around and reversed them.

Lord we thank You that you are able to reverse the effects of other people’s actions in our lives through our faith in what you have done on Calvary. You have in fact destroyed the spirits and forces of power in this world that moved to destroy us and to destroy you. Lord, thank you for that. We look forward to beginning to go out in faith and exercising faith in confidence, knowing for certain that you do all things well. You work all things according to the counsel of your will and in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

So Lord, this very moment we would cast away our fear. We would cast away the negative faith that we have, the fear about what is going to happen next week. We would cast away our fear and Lord we would put in its place, faith. You are our loving God who has made the sun shine. You are our loving God who loves us with all Your heart. You are the loving God who said all things work together for good to them that love God.

Father, we believe you and we believe that you are going to work that way in our lives this coming week. Lord we’re going to start looking forward to the next day, to what beautiful things You’re going to do, instead of fearing what somebody else is going to do. Lord we thank You that by that faith, our lives can be transformed and our circumstances changed miraculously.

Now the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.